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Rabobank senior seafood analyst Gorjan Nikolik - demand for premium species driving trade volumes
Rabobank senior seafood analyst Gorjan Nikolik - demand for premium species driving trade volumes

Global seafood trade rebounded strongly in 2021, driven by growing demand for high-value seafood in the US, the EU, and China, according to a recent report by Rabobank.

This rising demand for fishery and aquaculture products has positioned seafood as the most traded animal protein, with an estimated value of $164 billion in 2021 and a 2.44% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2011 and 2021.

Nearly half of that trade flowed to the EU, the US, and China, whose combined imports in 2021 surpassed $80 billion, Rabobank’s recently published 2021 World Seafood Map revealed.

In 2021, seafood trade was roughly 3.6 times the size of beef trade (the second most traded animal protein), five times the size of the global pork trade, and eight times the size of poultry trade.


Seafood isn’t only an important source of protein for food security, it’s an important source of income in many economies, said Rabobank.

‘Developing countries play a major role in seafood exports, accounting for seven of the top 10 exporters, and developed countries are increasingly reliant on developing nations for imports of high-value species, especially shrimp from India and Ecuador and salmonids from Chile,’ said Novel Sharma, seafood analyst at Rabobank.

Since 2013, the winners of the global seafood trade have been high-value species such as shrimp and salmonids, and the pandemic strengthened this trend.

‘During the pandemic, we saw higher value proteins, such as beef, shrimp, and salmonids, outperform other proteins, with year-on-year growth in trade value of 16%, 17%, and 20%, respectively,’ said Gorjan Nikolik, senior seafood analyst at Rabobank.


‘We are also seeing unprecedented high prices for many seafood species due to challenges in international trade, such as rising freight and energy costs and continued lockdowns in China.

‘However, recent data suggests the impact on seafood demand may become material, especially if a recessionary environment develops in the second half of 2022 or 2023. This could affect seafood market prices and the value of trade flows.’

In the coming years, the authors expect sustainability and demand for healthy and premium species to continue driving trade volumes of high-value seafood.

Exporters such as India and Ecuador are well positioned to capitalise on emerging trends and close the gap in the exporter rankings.

Read the full report here.